With the recent Oscar nominations, there’s been a lot of hubbub around what actors and directors got nominated, who got snubbed, what pictures are the most deserving, and many other topics. With all of the attention paid to the big categories, some of the less glamorous one, like visual effects, go underappreciated, but are no less impressive and important. A new video arrived that shows off some of the Academy Award-nominated special effects work from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, specifically how they turned Lupita Nyong’o into Maz Kanata.
Especially in a movie like Star War: The Force Awakens, one that attempts to create a wholly new universe populated by all manner of fantastic creatures and a variety of alien races, the special effects go a long way to selling the world. If you just have a bunch of dudes in shoddy costumes, the viewer is not going to get invested in this story at all. And that is certainly not the case with The Force Awakens, as there are intricate prosthetics, seamless digital set extensions, and much more.
While director J.J. Abrams used practical effects when possible, he wasn’t afraid to insert entirely digital characters either, and this video from Wired digs into the most notable of these, Lupita Nyong’o’s 1000-year-old bar owner Maz Kanata. Played entirely in motion capture by the 32-year-old actress, there’s so much more that goes into crafting a character like this.
After the character is created and designed, the actress’ is scanned and her movements are captured and converted, through a whole lot of technology that I will never in a million years be able to adequately explain, and the end result is what we see on the movie screen. This translation is very close to magic.
Seeing all the layers and passes that go into what, in the finished product, looks like a simple, natural shot, is impressive and really drives home just how detailed and intricate this process is. The fact that it all flows seamlessly into Star War: The Force Awakens is nothing short of phenomenal—one of the big knocks against the prequels has always been that the special effects are intrusive—and makes you realize how much of what we see is made up of nothing but pixels.
You probably know this, hell, you’ve probably contributed to this, but Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been making a ton of money since it was released. It’s currently closing in on the $2 billion mark, though this past weekend was the first time it didn’t with the box office since it dropped in December, surrendering that spot to Ride Along 2.
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